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Interview with Anke Eißmann - English

Anke Eißmann: "Lúthien prepares her escape from Hirilorn"

Adam's questions:

1. What is your point of view on the role of Artist these days?

Thats a difficult things to answer, because there are so many different fascets to the term "artist", and since I can only speak from personal experience, my view and opinion may be quite limited.

I think it has not changed much from former times: artists should not only strive to produce artwork people can enjoy for its beauty and to stir them emotionally. They should also try and reach people's intellect, and, in troubled times like ours, also contain some message that can rouse people's consciousness of things that go astray, and why, and how they can change them. For me personally this means a greater interest in and care for ecological questions that are neglected by so many. Of course this does not work with every kind of art. Some serves other, eg. more political purposes, and some of course is simply needed so that people can enjoy it and hopefully are inspired by it. All in all, as someone who can reach a lot of people, the artist should take his/her role seriously and not simply work for personal profit.

2. When did you encounter Tolkien books for the first time?

For me everything started with the Bakshi-movie. I watched it first in late 1991, and quite liked it - enough at least to get interested in the story and wanting to read it. Which I did shortly afterwards. Since then I have been rereading "Lord of the Rings" almost every year.

. What is the meaning of Tolkien books in your life? Do they play or have they ever played any significant role?

I daresay they did, and still do. In a way they influenced my decision of becoming an illustrator. Through them I gained contacts to wonderful people all over the world which I cherish and which surely have broadened my horizon. It's these friendships that I?m most grateful for. I think without Tolkien my life would have been very different.

4. What stories/tales from "Silmarillion"/HoME are most precious to you and why are they significant?

My favourite tale from the "Silmarillion" is "Of Túrin Turambar", although in fact I prefer the longer version that's been published in "Unfinished Tales". From the HoME I very much like the "Athrabeth Finrod ar Andreth". The "Making of" LotR from the History is also very interesting, as are the bits on Adunaic. "Unfinished Tales", although it doesn?t really belong to HoME contains some fascinating stuff, like the additional information on Númenor, Rohan and the Palantíri.

5. Do you read Tolkien books in German or in English?

I started reading Tolkien in German, but switched to English as soon as I felt competent enough to tackle the original version. Nowadays I only read the English versions.

6. What can you tell us about German translators of Tolkien books?

Recently a new German translation of "Lord of the Rings" created quite an uproar amongst German Tolkien-scholars and Tolkien-fans. Obviously the publisher had thought the old translation (from the 1960ies) too oldfashioned. In truth this translation by Margaret Carroux is very faithful to the book, although sometimes it lacks the careful differenciation of language that Tolkien uses e.g. for speakers of different race or social status.

The new translation, done by Wolfgang Krege, despite its good intention and some good solutions, doesn't do the original justice. On the contrary, it attempts to modernise the book and thus expressions are used that definitely spoil the atmosphere of the story. Some passages are truly horrible. For example, Sam doesn?t refer to Frodo as "Herr" (the term the old translation used for "master"), but as "Chef", translating as "boss". And this is one of the milder examples.

What's most annoying about this new translation is that the publisher refuses to see their mistake. Wolfgang Krege has also translated the "Silmarillion" some time ago, and had done a really good job at it. So it,s not quite certain who caused him to translate the "Lord of the Rings" the way he did.

7. When did you think about collaboration with Jenny Dolfen on your paintings? How was this collaboration going on?

I think it started with us corresponding about some legal matters of getting Tolkien-inspired artwork published, and from then it moved on to a discussion of scenes we'd like to paint one day. Well, and then we decided to both draw a scene from the "Silmarillion", but to concentrate on a different character each. For me this was quite a challenge because I was not as familiar with the characters (two of Feanor's sons) as she was. But I?m pleased with the result, and moreover really enjoyed collaborating with a highly talented artist like her.

8. What do you think about Bakshi's film based upon LOTR? I mean the cartoon.

Since for me the Baskhi-film marks the beginning of my interest in Tolkien, it still holds a certain nostalgic fascination for me. There are some parts of it I like (Gollum for example), others I find rather weird. It would have been interesting have seen it completed.

9. What's your opinion about Peter Jackson's movie?

Well, that's a difficult topic, and actually requires a long answer. But I'll try and make it short. What I like about it is the fact that so many highly creative people collaborated on it, and that this effort really shows in the art-direction, costuming, sets etc. In places I thought the movie too artificial-looking, and in general would have wished for more use of natural locations and lighting, but all in all I'm quite happy with the look and atmosphere of the movies.

What I dislike is the fact that the same care that was invested in the look isn't mirrored in the adaptation of the story. Here too often for my taste a certain arrogance of the filmmakers seems to show, in the way they treat their source-material. I don't mind the omissions. They are necessary. What I mind are many of the changes that occur. Some may also be necessary to retell the story in a different medium, but most were introduced to "improve" the story. But the thing is, the story doesn't need this kind of improvement. Often the filmmakers seemed to have considered the book too old-fashioned for a modern audience and tried to modernise or over-dramatise scenes.

So that's what I dislike most about the movies: the lack of subtlety, and the lack of confidence in the story as it's told in the book. In addition, a lack of confidence in their own medium. In a project this grand, I would have wished for more original ideas, and a more confident approach to filmmaking in general. Instead, Jackson and Co. bow deeply to the conventions of Hollywood-cinema instead of taking the risk of creating something new.

10. What do you think about elven languages? Do you know any or maybe are going to learn one?

What I know of Quenya and Sindarin is mostly based on what's written in the "Silmarillion" and HoME. I haven't studied them in detail, and am not really interested in doing so. Ad?naic interests me far more as a language, as do Old English, Old Norse and other old Germanic languages.

11. Do you usually read Tolkien books surrounded by silence or accompanied by sound? I mean: do you read Tolkien books listening to any music? If yes then could you tell us about this music?

I consider listening to music while reading as quite distractive, so I prefer to read in silence. I do listen to music while painting, though. Mostly to movie-scores, sometimes to classical music. I love music from the Renaissance and early Baroque-age, as well as Medieval music. But I also listen to contemporary music, as long as it's original and done by people who can either sing or play their instruments well. I greatly dislike the kind of cheap commercial music that seems to be the fashion nowadays.

12. Which of your paintings would you give A mark and why?

I don't think I can answer this. I find greater or smaller flaws in all of my paintings, which is why with the next piece I always try to improve.

13. Which of your paintings aren't you satisfied with?

Most of the paintings I'm really dissatisfied with aren't published on the internet. But they still exist. I tend to paint the same scene again when I'm not happy with the first version, and you can find a number of paintings of certain scenes on my site. Meaning I was in one way or the other dissatisfied with the former version/versions.

14. Any chance for your drawing/painting Eomer?

Well, I have drawn him, but not in a close-up. I've been thinking about drawing/painting him for quite some time, and have actually sketched some scenes containing him, so there will be a painting with him at one point.

Let's focus on Faramir.

Anke Eißmann: "No escape"

15. You seem to like him. Why? What's in this character that was to your liking? What moved you so deeply in this character?

If I knew... Basically, I think he's a very sympathetic, likeable character. After all, although he's a skilled warrior and beloved by his soldiers, he doesn't believe that prowess and glory in battle are the ultimate virtues. Instead he values learning, and is a scholar as well as a warrior. He is highly intelligent, self-confident in a selfless way, gentle and full of pity, as well as sporting a good sense of humour.

I find I can easily identify with him and his attitude. What's also nice about him is that we learn a lot about him in LotR, even down to his familiar background. He's one of the few characters we get to see from many sides.

16. What's your attitude towards Boromir?

I don't see Boromir as an evil character. I think that in his ambiguity he's one of the most human characters in LotR, and a good counterpart to his brother and also to Aragorn. It would have been great to have some actual dialogue between the brothers, or between Boromir and Denethor, and more scenes of the Steward and his sons in general.

17. Would it be better if Faramir was the one who joined the Fellowship instead of Boromir?

That's an interesting thing to speculate about. I think it's important that the Fellowship breaks up the way it does, so that Frodo and Sam can set out to Mordor alone, and Aragorn can concentrate on Rohan and the defence of Minas Tirith without a bad conscience. It's doubtful that things would have developed the same way had Faramir joined the Fellowship instead of his brother. The way I see him, he would have wanted to accompany Frodo into Mordor. Moreover he would not have succumbed to the lure of the Ring as easily as his brother. Also, with Boromir still in Minas Tirith and Denethor unaffected by grief and despair, Aragorn's claiming of the throne of Gondor would have been far more difficult. So all in all I think it's good that Boromir went instead of his brother.

18. If Aragorn never happened... Can you imagine Faramir as The Steward of Gondor?

Well, he is Steward of Gondor, isn't he? Although one may argue that with Aragorn established as King he's no Ruling Steward. Nevertheless I think (and Tolkien mentions something like this in one of his letters) that Faramir still plays an important part in the governing of Gondor. He and Imrahil are the most influencial nobles of the realm, and whenever King Elessar is away from Gondor, they would be required to take over and manage most matters of state.

What I think distinguishes Faramir both from his brother and his father is the fact that he never craved to rule Gondor. As Denethor's second son he would have accepted the fact that his brother would become the Steward, and not him. Also, he doesn't strike me as the kind of man who is interested in power. This is shown in his renunciation of the Ring, and his ready acceptance of Aragorn as his sovereign.

19. "Gondor has no King, Gondor needs no King." An interesting motto... could you tell us a little bit more about it?

I think you're referring to my T-Shirt. That was actually inspired by a line from the movies, and my liking of Faramir of course. My friends and I were all a bit annoyed by how the movies seemed to favour Aragorn over all other characters. So we imagined that there might be some rebellion organised by the Steward (because in every fairy-tale it's always the steward or king's advisor or grand vizeer who plots to overthrow the King) with this as their motto.

20. Is it easier for you to draw/paint Faramir than other characters?

I think so, because by now I have drawn him so often that I don't have to think about his looks anymore. They're already established in my mind. Hobbits come quite naturally, too, but with Elves it's more difficult.

21. Faramir that appears on your illustrations is very slender.On the other hand it takes strength and endurance to fight successfully in a battle. After all Tolkien's Faramir is a formidable warrior.I'd like to know your opinion about that.

I've always imagined Faramir as slender yet athlethic in built. I don't see him as a warrior who would need a lot of strength in a fight, but one who relies more on speed, and of course wit and tactics. Moreover, as someone who spends most of his time as a ranger in Ithilien where open battle is avoided, he would rather use the longbow as his weapon instead of sword and axe, which doesn't require a hugely muscular built. So the way I see him he's rather got the build of a cyclist or a dancer: slender, sometimes lean when there's lots of stress and little food, but tough and wiry with a great endurance for both physical as well as emotional and psychological stress. Otherwise I doubt he would have survived what Tolkien put him through in LotR.

22. Faramir in Peter Jackson's movie. I'd like to know your point of view.

Needless for me to say that I find Faramir's portrayal in the movies revolting. And nothing Peter Jackson and his screenwriters offer as an explanation can change this. Instead, their attempts at defending their version of Faramir only suffice to increase my wrath, because they show the filmmakers haven't even tried to understand the character and his function in the story. Instead, as I have mentioned before, they thought it necessary to make him more "realistic" and "believable" by dealing with him according to the conventions of character-creation in your avarage Hollywood-Blockbuster. For that they destroyed everything that makes Faramir such a likeable character. Gone also is the subtle tension the scenes at Henneth Ann?n contain and which would have transferred extremely well onto screen if handled with care. Unfortunately, as in many places, PJ and Co. went for the "spectacular" option.

What annoys me most about it is the fact that others have proven how well the subtle approach works. The 1981 BBC radio-adaptation of LotR does an excellent job of maintaining the integrity of the characters. Despite omitting certain features it remains true to the story despite recounting it a time-based medium. Their Faramir remains true in spirit to Tolkien's.

Another motivation was surely to decrease Faramir's likeability in order to make Aragorn stand out more as the great shining hero. It's no secret that he's Phillippa Boyen's favourite character. So Faramir, as another contender for the title of "romantic hero" had to step aside. Lastly, changes of character aside, I thought that David Wenham was entirely miscast in this role, mostly looks-wise. I think he is a good actor who was here given a poor script, and it's not his fault he doesn't look like Faramir is described in the book. But for me, all these things combined made me wish that Faramir had been omitted completely from the movies.

23. What's your second beloved (after Faramir) character appearing in LOTR?

Frodo. But I wouldn't put him at second. For me he and Gollum (and Sam) are the most important characters in the book, in a way the very essence of the story. Frodo has always been my favourite character from the book.

24. Faramir and Christopher Tolkien. Reading Tolkien's letters I came acros a letter in which Christopher Tolkien was writing about war. What Christopher Tolkien wrote seemed - however - to bear a very close resemblance to... Faramir's words spoken to Hobbits in Ithilien. I always wonder to what extent Faramir's character was influenced by Christopher Tolkien. What do you think about that? Just an out of curiosity question.

I must admit I haven't thought about this particular matter. But I believe it propable that Faramir was indeed inspired by Christopher, who, like Tolkien himself, was a warrior as well as a scholar. And when one thinks about the time when Faramir makes he first (and totally unexpected by the author) appearance, it makes even more sense. The Ithilien-episode was written during WWII. Christopher was serving with the RAF in South Africa, and his father informed him regularly about the progress of LotR via letters. I think it's highly possible that he thought of his son when he invented Faramir (although, in one of my favourite quotes from HoME, he claims he "didn't invent him" and "didn't even want him").

25. Faramir and JRR Tolkien. Another influence. Tolkien gave Faramir his nightmare of tidal wave (Atlantis?) transforming it into Faramir's dream of Numenor destruction. Did it add anything to Faramir's complexity or not in your opinion?

Tolkien says himself that of all characters from his works it's Faramir he can most identify with (although he claims he lacks his courage). It's interesting that his son Christopher is said to share this particular dream as well. When one considers Tolkien's background and especially his time as an officer during WWI, as well as his work as a scholar, there are many similarities between him and Faramir. John Garth, author of "Tolkien and the Great War" sees these ties as well when he writes: "Faramir, of course, is an officer but also a scholar, with a reverence for the old histories and sacred values that help him through a bitter war." Yes, I think these similarities between Tolkien and Faramir add to the character's complexity.

Let's move beyond Tolkien.

26. Do you like/read other fantasy books than Tolkien's? I'd ask especially about George R R Martin (Jenny Dolfen loves his "Fire and Ice"), David Gemmell, Ursula K Le Guin and Robert E. Howard (Conan's creator). If you like them then is there any chance to see let's say Conan on your illustrations?

I haven't read any of these authors, I'm afraid. Of Conan I only know the movie, which made me stay clear of Heroic Fantasy. I tend to read little fantasy, being generally more interested in the old tales and myths that inspired authors of fantasy (and Tolkien himself).

What I do like, however, are the Discworld-novels by Terry Pratchett. I also enjoy the Harry Potter-series which I think can be reckoned as fantasy, and was fascinated by Susannah Clarke's "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell". At the moment I'm reading Robin Hobb?s Farseer Trilogy, and so far have been enjoying it.

What I also like and frequently reread are some of the books I read as a child, such as Astrid Lindgren's or Otfried Preußler's (especially his "Krabat"). They contain fantastical elements as well. "Krabat" is one of the books I'd really love to illustrate one day.

27. I have enjoyed your Beowulf illustrations very much and am very interested in OldEnglish/Beowulf matter. You are of Germanic origins so did you feel anything special when focusing on Beowulf illustrations?

Perhaps subconsciously, because these stories are deeply ingrained in many fairytales one hears as a child. But I wasn't drawn to Beowulf because we're both of Germanic origins. Needless to say, it was Tolkien who made me want to get to know more about Beowulf and Old English (with a little help from Tom Shippey).

28. What were red shields, red skirt and red dragon supposed to represent on your Beowulf illustrations?

I used the reduced colour-scheme (red, white, black) because I wanted to work only with materials the Anglo-Saxons during the time when Beowulf was written would have had at their disposal. So I used charcoal and red chalks. And the dragon looks far more dangerous when rendered in red than in black ;).

29. One more questions about Beowulf. Would Wiglaf make a good king in your opinion? I'm asking because I've always really liked the man and disagreed with all those people talking "Beowulf died and everything wuld crumble." So, what do you think?

I think he would have made a good king, because he's humble and willing to serve his people as a good king should, instead of trying to amass riches. The question is if such a young king would have managed to hold his retainers together and to defend his country against enemy forces. I see him in a similar position as Éomer in LotR when Théoden is slain, although Éomer is lucky in having his friend Aragorn as king of the neighbouring realm. I'm not sure if Wiglaf had a friend like this, so his situation would have been more difficult.

30. Did you meet any Polish Tolkienists/Tolkienites? If yes then could you tell me what your impressions were?

I had the pleasure of meeting Ryszard Derdzinski and some of his friends at the Tolkien Tag in Berlin in May 2005. They attended my illustration-workshop and contributed many good ideas to it. Also they interviewed me for their magazine "Simbelmynë", which was nice.

In Birmingham I was lucky to meet some of the staff of "Aiglos", and, which pleased me most, I finally met Kasiopeia. I've admired her artwork for some time, and we'd corresponded about it, so it was great to finally manage to talk to her.

31. And last but not least I'd like to ask you whether this interview could also be proposed to "Aiglos" fanzin? And if they agreed could it be published in "Aiglos"? (apart from being previously published on : ). Aiglos is a non-profit Tolkienistic Almanac and you can read more about it on:

I would be honoured. Some time ago they published one of my Faramir-drawings in their magazine. And they're such a nice crowd, as I noticed in Birmingham.


The question of X:

1. What is your opinion on the role of an illustrator in context of author's descriptions? Should the illustrator make his works with high fidelity to the writer's instructions or maybe she is an artist who has a right to his own vision of some characters or views? How does your opinion on this subject affect the look of your works?

I think it depends on the type of book and the style of the writing how this particular story should be illustrated. Generally, every artistic interpretation is an interpretation of the story to some degree and thus reflects the personal vision of the artist. What's important in whatever way the artist choses to illustrate the text, he must be consistent throughout it, and true to his intentions. For example if he claims to create illustrations faithful to the text, and does not, the reader may find these images highly distracting from the actual story. This of course may be a desired effect, but I'd imagine it not to be a common one. In general I believe it more appropriate for the illustrator to remain faithful to the descriptions in the book, and in my own illustrations I try to hold to that belief. In my opinion nothing is more irritating and even frustrating for a reader than to find a highly naturalistic, well-crafted illustration that nevertheless does not follow the description in the book. The reader may feel torn in two: his own mental image, created from the text, of a sudden is very different from the image he is presented with. On the other hand this visual image because of its high degree of naturalism may seem more convincing. This can cause a real dilemma for the reader.

For that reason I think it's also important to maintain a kind of painterly quality in style of the illustrations, perhaps achieved by the use of a medium that indicates that the artwork is indeed a painting or drawing. So the reader can always tell that what he sees is just one possible interpretation of a scene or a character and not the one, definite portrayal, as perhaps a photo-realistic rendering would suggest.

Therefore my chosen technique for my Tolkien-illustration is watercolour. Because in this medium the artist cannot influence every detail in the painting, because at times water and colour and the surface of the paper react in ways one cannot anticipate, the illustrator can suggest a scene rather than dictate its look, and thus leave room for the reader's own imagination. Which, I think, must be maintained and moreover to stimulated by whatever the illustrator does.

2. Can you tell us something about Tolkien Fandom in Germany? Who are the most well - known Tolkienite there? Have you got some convents or regular meetings of Tolkien fans? If yes, I really wonder how they look like.

For about five years now I have been a member of the German Tolkien Society (DTG = Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft). Founded in Cologne in 1997, at the moment the society has about 500 members, including most of the leading Tolkien-scholars in Germany. Their website is at:

The DTG publishes their journal, the "Flammifer von Westernis" three times a year, and once a year "Hither Shore", their year-book which contains the proceedings of the previous year's Tolkien Seminar, as well as current Tolkien-research.

The Tolkien Seminar takes place once a year as a weekend-long conference. In 2006 it is going to be in Mainz, with the "History of Middle-earth" as its subject.

Also once a year there's the Tolkien Thing (Tolkien Moot), the major event of the society. It's usually a mixture of talks, presentations, workshops, games and lots and lots of fun. Since DTG-members live all over Germany (or even abroad), the Thing is the possibility for most to meet once a year.

Some of the society's activities are organised by local groups, so-called "Smials" or "Stammtischen". They are based in major German cities. These events are the "Tolkien Tage" (Tolkien Days) where people can listen to talks and readings, try their Tolkien-knowledge at quizzes, try out games or workshops, and generally meet Tolkien-folk for a chat and some good food.

Like almost everywhere, in Germany interest in Tolkien has increased with the movies. There are other events not directly organised by the DTG, although they usually add to the programme by giving talks or organising workshops. Some take place in historic castles and combine Tolkien and other Fantasy-themes, as well as Medieval/Reenactment-interests. These events are the annual "Tolkien-Fest" in Hohensolms or the "Schicksalsfest" near Siegen.

And of course there's "RingCon", said to be the world's largest Tolkien/Fantasy convention. A number of actors from the LotR-movies have attended the event in the past, as well as several thousands of fans. For more information:

3. I know that you also like Beowulf, which is suspected to be one of the Tolkien's inspirations. What do you think is so special in this heroic poem that moved Tolkien so deeply? I also wonder what similarities and differences do you see between those two great pieces of literature.

Oh dear, to answer these questions I would have to write a book - and indeed quite a number have been written or are being written. Perhaps you should rather ask Tom Shippey or Michael Drout or other for an answer ;). In fact, there's some really good stuff on this subject in Shippey's "Road to Middle-Earth". But I'll try and add my two pence.

What I think both works have in common, and also what moved Tolkien so deeply about Beowulf is a celebration of language. Tolkien loved Old English, and the anonymous Beowulf-poet used it masterfully. Tolkien surely admired this. Also Beowulf contains references to older tales and legends from a remote past that can only be glimpsed at. These must also have fascinated Tolkien: the layering of the story and its strong foundations in myth (and language).

4. What are your main inspirations in art and literature (except Tolkien and Beowulf) and how do they influence your image as an artist?

There are several artists whose art I admire and who inspire me, for different reasons. There is a number of illustrators, mostly from the Golden Age of Illustration, such as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Ivan Bilibin. Then there's Alan Lee, one of my greatest inspirations. The Pre-Raphaelites and Art Noveau-artists continue to inspire me, as does the art of Jan Vermeer, Edward Hopper, and many more whose names have just slipped my mind.

Another great source of inspiration is photography, especially landscape and nature photography. I often use photographs for reference, to get lighting or details of landcape right.

Inspiration I also derive from films and cinematography. The 16:9-format of most of my Tolkien-illustrations was based on the idea that they are like stills from a movie. Ideas for the composition and the lighting of scenes I also often get from films.

In literature I'm greatly interested in Tolkien's own mythological and historical sources. Also the books I read as a child, mostly by Astrid Lindgren, Otfried Preußler and Michael Ende.

Well, and often inspiration simply happens, and sometimes I can't recall the actual source.

5. And what is so unusual in the works of Tolkien himself that makes them one of your main sources of inspiration?

I think it's the combination of many things I like and that I've found in other works of art and literature. There seems to be some of all the things I cherish in Tolkien's works.

6. When and in what circumstances did you decide to create a serie of illustrations to Tolkien's works? Was it shortly after reading his books - or maybe you needed firstly some time to think about it? Which of your works was the very first one? Were you satisfied with the result?

My first Tolkien-inspired piece was a drawing of Frodo and the hobbits with their ponies in the Old Forest, created some days or so after I'd read the passage for the first time, as a birthday present for a classmate who was also reading LotR. I think I was fairly pleased with the result.

7. Which other Tolkien illustrators do you like the most and which the least? Why?

I've already mentioned Alan Lee. He's my favourite Tolkien- (and not just Tolkien-) illustrator. I like his approach to illustration, and of course admire his mastery of watercolour. His pencil-drawings are also very good.

I'm a great fan of Tolkien's own art, too, which is often underestimated by admirers of his books, in my opinion.

John Howe's art I like for its dynamic and the way the scenes are lit. Ted Nasmith is excellent at rendering landscape and especially clouds and weather. Catherine Chmiel and Jenny Dolfen are great at depicting characters.

Illustrators I don't care so much for are eg. the Brothers Hildebrand, Darrell Sweet or Rowena Morrill. While I think they are good artists who excell in their chosen medium, their interpretations of Tolkien's works don?t match my own imagination.

8. Which aspects of your illustrations make you especially satisfied? What still needs to be corrected?

I think I'm quite good at depicting characters and their emotions, horses, and details of clothing or nature, like plants and trees, as well as capturing the atmosphere of a scene in terms of hue and lighting.

What could be improved are anatomy, perspective, and the rendering of architecture.

9. What do you think is the most important feature to succeed in making a good illustration? Do you see it in your own works or you are rather critical towards them?

What makes a good illustration?? I think that's a highly subjective thing. For me, I like when the artist has somehow managed to get close to my own imagination and depicts things I hadn't really fleshed out in my own mind. Or if his artwork is so strikingly original that it gives me new insight into what I've read.

I see it in my own artwork to varying degrees, and yes, I'm my severest critic ;).

10. While watching your works I noticed that you devote your attention mainly to the widely understood "history of the Stewards of Gondor", and the one who is especially beloved - that's of course Faramir. From the Silmarillion - well, I suspect Luthien to be your favoutite character. I wonder what do you see in those characters and events that makes them so important to you.

As for Faramir, there's some of my thoughts about him in the answers above. My favourite characters from the Silmarillion are in fact Beleg, Finrod and Túrin. Honestly I don't know why. Something about them struck me as fascinating, I think. In the case of Beleg and Finrod I think it was their selflessness. Beleg of course is an excellent bowman and thus holds a certain fascination. Finrod is wise and gentle as well as strong and powerful. And Túrin is simply one of the most rounded characters Tolkien has created, and his story is simply touching.

11. Which scene in Tolkien's legendarium moves you to deepest emotions? Why?

If I knew, there are so many ;).

12. As I see you have created a huge amount of works inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien. Can you shortly describe, how do you usually work upon them? I mean the period of time that one illustration needs to be created, the way in what you decide which scene to draw, the best place where you can work and so on.

These things tend to vary a lot. A painting may take from two days to a month or more, depending on the amount of preparation (research, sketches), detail, and inspiration/motivation I have to invest in it. The choice of scenes is rather arbitrary, too. Sometimes I read a passage and a certain scene leaps to my mind. Sometimes I simply feel I have to paint Faramir again. Sometimes I want to, say, paint a scene with a horse or a certain type of landscape or architecture, and then I look through the books for a suitable one. And of course there's the long list of scenes I've been wanting to paint for years and years.

13. Which illustration of yours is the one that you would call the best of them? Why?

I don't think there's one illustration I'd rate the best. There are several I like, again for different reasons. Some really nail my mental image of a scene or character, others are simply well-done in terms of composition, lighting, colour, whatever. One of the paintings I really like is "Lúthien prepares her escape from Hirilorn", another is "Escaping from the Black Riders", "Sam and Frodo" or "Beren recovers a Silmaril".

14. Which illustration of yours is the one you have the greatest sentiment to? Maybe there is some history connected with it - it would be great if you could relate it to us.

At the moment I can't think of any particular story to any of the images. There are small events attached to some, but it would certainly burst the frame of this Q&A to relate them here. I think the images mentioned above I?m very particular about.

15. Which event in your career as an illustrator was the most satisfying to you? What is the thing you are endeavouring nowadays?

I think the most satisfying event so far has been my invitation to attend the Tolkien 2005 international conference in Birmingham this year, where I joined Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and Tim Kirk in a panel-discussion and autograph-session. Needless to say I felt quite out of place next to them at first, but they're such nice guys, they quickly made me feel at ease. This was a great experience.

As for my endeavours, I'm working on getting my Tolkien- and Beowulf-illustrations published, as well as getting commissioned for interesting illustration-projects.

16. I noticed that you illustrate not only canonical Tolkien works, but also fanfiction inspired by it. I also see you are often both an illustrator and one of the authors to them. I wonder what do you think about fanfiction at all - I mean is it as important to you as Tolkien himself - and what is your favourite fanfic about.

I think fanfiction (of which of course there exist some very good but also lots of bad examples) is another way to vent the inspiration Tolkien can stir in one. Not everybody . And in a world like Middle-Earth there are many possibilities to continue stories Tolkien has perhaps left unfinished, or to create new stories, or alternative ones for existing events. To write a good fanfic means that one has to invest much thought in a character and thus the understanding and appreciation of Tolkien's creations can be much deepened - a similar effect a good illustration should have.

The fanfics I'm involved in mostly deal with - surprise - Faramir ;). In case people are interested, they can be found here:

17. What is the funniest experience that you have had during your work as an illustrator?

Getting asked for interviews, I guess ;).


The Questions were prepered by Adam and X from

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